Arguably one of the worst ways to start your morning is rushing out the door to work only to be greeted by an iced-over vehicle. Scraping a stubborn layer of ice from your windshield can be frustrating and tortuously cold, so knowing how to get ice off your windshield without numbing your fingers and brain is a very attractive notion. Of course, you’ll need a little extra patience in the winter no matter what, but there are steps you can take to make your morning commute a little smoother. Here’s some tips for how to remove ice from windshield glass so you can get on with your day.
The best defense is a good offense. Stopping ice before it forms takes a little extra effort, but can be well worth your time. One method of prevention is to cover your windshield with a folded sheet or towel, using the wiper blades to secure it in place as tight against the glass as possible. Come morning, all you have to do is remove it, shake it out and stow it (make sure to carry a tarp if you’re taking it with you, it will be cold and wet after use). There might still be a light layer of frost underneath, but nothing your defrost setting can’t handle.
Another preventative measure is using chemicals. DIYers can make vinegar-water solution mixed in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio and use a spray bottle to spray on the glass when parking the car for the evening. Note that this is not meant to clear ice away that is already present. There is some buzz that vinegar pits glass, but so far there isn’t much evidence to back up that claim. However, if you do choose to go this route, keep it off paint and metal to be safe. Either way, if you don’t feel comfortable using vinegar, there are a number of premixed preventative alternatives available that should do the trick nicely.
If the ice has already formed, you need a plan B for how to remove ice from car windshield glass. Lukewarm water applied liberally to the glass and a little help from a squeegee can work wonders with a little patience, but depending on how much ice you’re fighting, it could take up to a bucketful. Absolutely do not use hot water for this as the sudden change in temperature could actually crack the windshield glass. Another option is a rubbing alcohol-water solution, mixed in a 2:1 ratio with a couple drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. If you’re not looking to make your own, again there are a number of great de-icing products ready to lend you hand.
You may be tempted to use salt water, which will work, but remember that the salt water is likely to run down your windshield onto (and inside) the body of your vehicle. If you live in the rust belt you are already familiar with how salt interacts with a metal car body. If you go this route make sure to wash the vehicle soon to remove any salt residue and prevent corrosion.
Here’s how to melt ice on windshield glass without picking up a scraper: let your engine heat do the work. Yes it takes more time, but it is worth it to let your vehicle warm up so that the defroster can do its job. Resist the temptation to rev the engine in hopes to make it warm up faster. The cooling system thermostat is already in charge of when the coolant is warm enough to circulate coolant when the time is right. Just make sure there is nothing blocking the defroster vents. You can speed things up by using a block heater to get the engine up to operating temperature quicker.
The most costly option is also the least hassle. Some new vehicles have remote start as a factory option, but it can also be added to most vehicles. Installing a remote start system in your car can cost hundreds of dollars, but it’s a real time saver if that’s where your priorities are. Having this luxury installed in your vehicle means all you have to do is hit a button when you roll out of bed and your car will be all warmed up for you by the time you are ready to drive it. Just make sure that when you park the night before, you’ve set your defroster on high. If you are looking for the easy route, this is the best way to remove ice from windshield glass with no fuss.
For EV drivers you may have the option to set a departure schedule which will have your electric vehicle already toasty warm and de-iced at your chosen time. This also lets you take advantage of using grid power to run the heater and defroster thus preserving your battery range.
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Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.